After you have had a
seizure, it can be difficult to predict whether you
will have more seizures. This makes it hard to decide whether to begin
treatment for epilepsy. The first seizure you report may not actually be the
first seizure you've had. You may have had seizures in the past, such as brief
absence seizures or auras, without knowing they were
A seizure occurs when there’s abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Seizures may go virtually unnoticed. Or, in severe cases, they may produce a change or loss of consciousness and involuntary muscle spasms called convulsions. Seizures usually come on suddenly and vary in duration and severity. A seizure may be a one-time event, or you may have seizures repeatedly. Recurrent seizures are called epilepsy, or a seizure disorder. Less than one in 10 people who has a seizure develops epilepsy.
MRI scans can be helpful in detecting changes in the
brain that could be related to epilepsy. These tests may be done immediately if the person who has
had the seizure also has a decreased level of consciousness or new motor or
sensory problems that do not improve shortly after the seizure ends. Scans may also be done if the
person has ongoing headache or fever,
AIDS, recent trauma (especially to the head), or a
history of cancer or
anticoagulant therapy. These things increase the
likelihood that the seizure may have been related to a serious problem in the
brain. The nature of the seizure and the person's age can also help determine
whether an imaging test is needed and how soon it is needed.
When deciding to start treatment, you and your doctor can consider how
likely you are to have a second seizure. Risk factors for having a second seizure
Evidence of a structural lesion in the brain as
seen on a CT or MRI scan (if one is done) or the likelihood of a lesion as
suggested by your symptoms and history.
There is some evidence to support the use of antiepileptic medicines
after a first seizure to reduce the risk of more seizures. But medicine
is usually not prescribed if you do not have any of the above risk factors and
are thought to be unlikely to have more seizures. Taking antiepileptic
medicines when you are not at risk for more seizures exposes you to side effects and potential harm from the medicine.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this